Photo via the Four Seasons Seattle Facebook page

Ethan Stowell has been looking for a way to return downtown, after closing Union in 2010. Today he announced some major restaurant plans that bring him once again to First and Union, where his first restaurant once stood.

He's taking over the former Art Restaurant and Lounge at the Four Seasons...which totally explains why the space closed March 16 for a mysterious—but major—remodel. 

Stowell has no name for the place yet, but he does have a chef: The very talented Joe Ritchie is coming over from Stowell's Mkt. to head up the kitchen. He and Stowell are planning a menu that, naturally, is all about Northwest ingredients.

Let us take a moment to mourn the end of Art's all-you-can-eat cheese buffet. Now, let us turn our attention to Stowell's plan for a raw bar filled with crab legs and shellfish and crudo, an excellent burger, a special menu section of fancy steaks, plus what a release calls "a smattering of classic appetizers among modern Pacific Northwest dishes."

The Four Seasons approached Stowell wanting a restaurant that showcases the region's proteins and produce and caters to locals as much as visitors. "Something with more of an independent feel," according to Four Seasons general manager Ilse Harley—"to break the mold of a traditional hotel restaurant."

Seattle will always adore its tiny neighborhood restaurants, but recently more prominent chefs have been teaming with downtown hotels, namely Jason Wilson at Miller's Guild and Thierry Rautureau at Loulay. Hell, Tom Douglas opened Lola in the Hotel Ändra back in 2004 and apparently found the arrangement happy enough to also house an entire cooking school there. Plenty of the people visiting Seattle don't make it too far beyond downtown, so it makes sense to display our culinary heavy hitters in the city center.

This Four Seasons opened in 2008, but Stowell has many a childhood memory of celebrating special occasions in the Georgian Room at the former Four Seasons Olympic Hotel, which became the Fairmont Olympic in 2003. Though he's designing this restaurant to be an equal opportunity purveyor of happy hour, preconcert dinners, and nicer meals.

Stowell also had a hand in redesigning the room. The white tablecloths will be gone, he says. "And rest assured, the music selection will be in my control." Stowell beverage guru Sennen David will build the wine, beer, and cocktail menus.

When the new place opens mid-May, it will serve lunch, dinner, and happy hour. There's potential to expand into things like room service or catering weddings at the hotel.

Meanwhile, just to keep things interesting, Stowell and his wife/business partner, Angela, are planning a new pizzeria in Frelard and a gastropub in the former Portalis space in Ballard. They are presumably not affiliated with any four-star hotels.

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